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Measuring restoration success needs a global standard

How will we know if our forest restoration efforts have been successful? The World Resources Institute suggests that a robust global atlas to track progress in tree restoration is needed.

Now that more and more businesses are adding to the global effort to grow trillions of trees in the fight against climate change, the research organization’s article proposes a “Restoration Watch” that mimics the role that Global Forest Watch plays for tree cover loss, but to track growth instead.

As a partner of the Global Restoration Observatory (GRO), WeForest joins WRI and others working towards tracking restoration progress across the globe – and knows only too well the challenges of monitoring such projects. Growing trees to maturity takes time, often 15 years or more. Even with satellite imagery, it is hard to see a tiny sapling slowly growing. Rather, we measure our success by mapping our hectares with GPS points to generate polygons or points on a map, and permanent monitoring plots are established within the sites. Our  teams survey the progress of biomass growth, tree density, survival rates and species diversity, among other indicators.

WRI proposes building a Global Restoration Progress Index that can track where trees are growing at the global, national and subnational scales, combined with a consistent, scientifically sound, cost-effective monitoring protocol that practitioners across the world can use and investors can trust. This would be a step we would heartily applaud.

And we could not agree more on the following: “Measuring tree growth is only one benchmark of restoration success. We need to invest in measuring the economic and social impact of restoration, too, to ensure that people stand to benefit,” the WRI article states, echoing WeForest’s conviction that restoration of natural systems and improving the living conditions of local communities should go hand-in-hand. “The true price of tree restoration success goes beyond tree planting to include the cost of engaging local people, preparing and caring for trees and measuring progress.”

Read the WRI article here.

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